Since 2016 there have only been a few weekends that Pooja and I have spent at home. We discovered this new passion for travel. We explored a lot of places in almost a year and half of travel we had quite some adventures as well. Then we had to stop as our daughter was on the way. Staying back at home was still difficult my new found hobby for birding had introduced me to places like Valley School and Hoskote Lake. Finally when my daughter was almost a year and a half old we decided to hit the roads again. We upgraded our Royal Enfield to a Tata Nexon to accomodate the new traveller. The second half of 2019 we were almost getting back on track and our daughter was a very cooperative traveller. This had build up our confidence and in Feb 2020 we took a big leap by taking our daughter to Jungle Retreat Wayanad. It was one successfull trip that gave us confidence to plan all our future trips.
But then the pandemic hit the world the entire world went into lockdown. I know my readers don’t need any reminders of that dark age. By November when the world was getting back on its feet we decided that it was time for us too. We decided to end the year from where we began – at the Jungle Retreat.
We were in the good company of Arun , Vidya and their 3 year old daughter Aaradya. Many of our adventures back in 2016-17 where with Arun and Vidya. Infact it was with them that we first visited Jungle Retreat back in 2016. So in a way this trip was one down the memory lane.
We started off from Kochi (and not from Bangalore as usual). I would like to meet that gentleman who said that ‘It is the Journey that is more important than the destination’ and would invite him to travel from Kochi to Wayanad via road. After a tiring ride we finally reached the Jungle retreat by lunch time. To be honest I do not know why I was tired because in our group I was the only one that did not have to do any work. Arun drove all the way, Vidya and Pooja managed the kids. I was like that one guy you find in every group project who sits back and enjoys the ride.
Although we missed the warm welcome by Mr. Anil (the owner) and Anju, the other staff at Jungle Retreat treated as well and gave us a warm welcome. We were greated by Manu whom my readers might already be familiar with, Anil 2 and Mr. Kumar. We had a very delicicous lunch and we retreated back to our rooms for a little bit of rest. I spent some time on the balcony of our room enjoying the concert by the bulbuls sunbirds and the acrobatics perfomed by the Langurs. There was a Malabar giant squirell munching away on a nearby tree.
My daughter woke up and I was showing her all these and she felt that disturbing her mother’s sleep was far better entertaining than all these. The events that followed happened in a span of around 5-10 mins. My wife came out annoyed and half sleepy, I went inside to see what my daughter was upto and then there was a loud commotion by the Langurs near our room, this was followed by Kumar running towards our room and frantically knocking on the windows and doors and pointing towards the waterhole in the farm.
From all this I had heard the keyword ‘leopard’. I took my camera and was frantically panning all over the place. First to a bush to which my wife had pointed to then to the top of the trees where the Langurs where running and finally through my viewfinder I saw her, with her precious catch. For a second she turned back and looked. It felt like time just frooze and all I could here was my shutter clicking. By the time others came rushing the party was over.
Next day our hopes of a birding trip was shrouded by the heavy fog once the fog cleared we set out on a trek into the surrounding jungle under the guidance of Manu. There was another couple that joined us and Vidya and Pooja decided to sit this one out. We followed the same track that we saw the leaopard taking on the previous day. We walked for almost 40 minutes in a circle surrounding that area where Manu suspected that the leopard might be hiding. The trek usually starts with a high enthusiasm, the adrenaline rush pushes us through the initial minutes and then as time goes by, the lack of any activity bores you down and then the walk starts feeling tiring and the mosquitoes and the shrubs brushing on your skin starts to irritate you, and then you start feeling thirsty and you just wish you were back in the comfort of your room. I was about to reach that final stage when Manu who was walking ahead of us saw the leaopard and then just as he whispered that 2 of us saw something jump down from a branch that was just around 100m infront of us. It suddenly dawned upon Manu that we were not tracking one, but two leopards. Then the jungle was silent again. It is as if nothing had happened and the leopards had just vanished, like ghosts. The adrenaline rush was back and we pursued our track further. But then after a point we felt that we were invading its privacy and it was better we left them alone.
For me the trip was almost complete at this point. There was not more that I could have asked. We spend the rest of the day in a stream nearby. That is where the kids had their adventures, dipping in the ice cold water, chasing frogs and water skimmers and collecting pebbles from the stream that nature had shaped to perfection. Out of all the creature that we saw there I think the stream glories were the most vibrant colored ones. At first we thought that it was the golden snitch used in Quidditch. The way they fly and hover reminded us of the harry potter movie. The only difference was that the stream glories were green in color. I did spend an awfull amount of time to see if I could get a shot of the stream glory, but all that effort was in vain.
We then had the customary camp fire where Manu shared his stories and his adventures, and we spent our time ruminating the last adventure of 2020, and hoping for better adventures in 2021.